96 and other movies


Over the past 10 days or so, I had the opportunity to see 4 movies, which is rather unusual. Nowadays, it has become my regular habit to see some Netflix serial to relax and I have become a fan of Netflix based on the variety of shows and movies that they present. I recently saw “The Angel” on Netflix which is a full movie involving Egypt – Israel war and relationship.

Since I was visiting Chennai last week, my family booked not one, but two movies which anyway they were planning to see in theatre – I was just added to the ticket list! I thought why not, let us see Kollywood fare for a change [Kollywood stands for movies produced in Chennai, the Tamil Nadu capital city in South India, as against Bollywood which identifies movies produced out of Bombay, or Mumbai, the movie capital of India].

My sister selected “96” and “Johnny English Strikes Again”. The first was a unique love story and the second was Mr Bean in action as a British intelligence agent. Again, unusual selection of movies for a change!

Apart from the above, I also saw “Imaikka Nodigal” yesterday, which is a rather strange, unusual Tamil thriller.

OK, now let me give you a quick rundown on what I think of these movies. These are not full movie reviews, just my short opinion. So, my view may not corroborate with what a generalist population thinks or how you feel. I refuse to fall into the cult of heroism of any movie actor or actress, which unfortunately plagues much of India. Whether I like an actor’s acting or not is not a reflection on what I think about that actor – it is the result of the actor’s acting under a particular set of constraints, directed by a director who may or may not be able to bring the best out of the actor, and also contributed in large measure by co-actors.

Given then that I am not a typical “movie buff” or a “hero/heroine follower”, I was pleased with the above selection overall. Let me outline my views as below:

“The Angel”: This is a true-life story of Ashraf Marwan, who was the son-in-law of Egyptian President, Gamel Abdel Nasser. Probably Marwan was a double-spy working both for Mossad of Israel and President Anwar Sadat of Egypt. He is also probably the only hero felicitated in both Egypt and Israel as a national icon who persevered for peace between the two countries. The complex question of whether peace in the Middle East is worth the sacrifice of passing military secrets between two of the most critical nations at war is forever a challenging one to decipher. The mind of Marwan is portrayed as complex and sort of, convoluted. He struggles with himself while trying to do his job and save his family. His job becomes rather difficult given that he is viewed as an ineffectual son-in-law of a powerful President (Nasser). Israel’s Mossad handles Marwan well in the beginning but loses its confidence when key assertions by Marwan do not pan out.

An interesting and dramatic history lesson, “The Angel” is a fascinating watch – especially for us who are far removed from the Middle East.

“96”: This is a beautiful Tamil language movie centred on the teenage love between the two prime characters. It has an excellent cast, and a great director. The movie can be considered to be “slow” paced in today’s world. While I was seeing the movie, I was wondering what I did during my Grade X! Nothing unique, as I was not in a co-ed school anyway. This movie will prod you to reminisce on your school days, especially on the stupid things – I am not meaning the teenage infatuation here! Sorry!!

Nostalgia gets a new meaning when you experience what the characters go through in this movie. It happens to be a love story which did not go well, but it could have been anything. How the hero and heroine (who could not consummate their love) deal with a long night without even so much as touching each other is very well shot by the director and beautifully acted by the two actors. You would guess that they are on to “something” and that is what the friends of the two actors also think, going by visual and body language. Nothing of that sort happens though, and the heroine returns to her family while longing for what she has lost in her life by some stupid reaction. See the movie for learning what she did in college!

“Johnny English Strikes Again”: Absolute nonsense made enjoyable by the antics of our favourite comedian of all times, Mr Bean. I would not gone to see this movie in a theatre spending some serious money as it is all the same nonsense anyway when it comes to British spy stories. This is a ridiculous story about some software bloke who steals the identities of all secret service agents in Britain, and so the government leans on Johnny English to save the Queen’s country from blackmail. The unique point in this movie is the depiction of “older analogue” technologies by an agent who has not yet comprehended the latest digital technologies of spying and warfare. He still wins (he has to, of course), but then everything about this movie is not realistic or believable at all. For some time passing and laughter, yes go and see it. But is it worth spending money on? No, not at all. Mr Bean should stop acting in such totally stupid movies when even the common man thinks it is totally rubbish when Mr Bean cannot even handle an app on his smartphone and trashes it. How is he even going to get his position on the map? Give it a miss.

“Imaikka Nodigal” Absolute thriller with lots of twists and turns. I did not expect the last 15 minutes which reveals who is the actual murderer on the loose. The suspense is kept on for almost the entire duration of the movie and the audience suspects that it is someone who has been revealed by the director early on in the movie – but that does not turn out to be entirely true. This movie is in the league of high quality Hollywood movies of the same genre. That a director of the calibre of Anurag Kashyap from Bollywood can act so well (he is the menacing serial killer in this movie) is a huge surprise. The director has done an amazing job – excellent movie.

Enjoy your weekend, folks! And, see some good movies!!

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

13th October 2018

 

 

 

A Quiet Place


I really enjoyed this horror movie, though I could not convince my wife to join in the viewing – she said it is too much of horror nonsense. I agree that the story of the movie is not realistic, but who knows – the way the world is moving, anything can happen.

“A Quiet Place” is a very well directed movie – its director John Krasinski also is the lead actor. The lead actress is Emily Blunt, who is also John’s real-life spouse. She deserves an award for showing so much fear in her face and acting her role so well. The movie revolves around a family of four who are left behind in this world dominated by some weird creatures who cannot see but can hear sounds. Once they hear any kind of sound, they swoop in on their prey which made that sound and kill the prey – and they are horrible looking, to say the least. So, the whole movie is more or less silent, with our actors communicating using sign language for most of the time.

Since sounds cause so much fear in our actors, we as audience are so attuned to any kind of sound emanating from the TV screen or even from around us physically. If somebody in the house drops something on the ground, you react to it, because the entire movie is eerily silent and sounds cause death by the vile creatures roaming around.

The family unit is tightly knit, having lost one of the children to the creature after he made some noise using a toy aeroplane. Can you tolerate such a thing, when the father is running towards his boy who is causing the sound, and before he could reach the boy, the creature has swooped in, grabbed the boy and taken him away for its lunch?

The imagination of the story and the director is to be highly commended. I did not feel scared at all while viewing this movie. I just wanted to find out what happens to this lonely family, where the only company they keep is to each other. The mom teaches mathematics to her son without making any sound. The dad is building an earphone device which would allow his deaf daughter (so well acted by Millicent Simmonds) to hear sounds so that she could avoid the creatures. The boy (again acted well by Noah Jupe) is being taught by the dad on how to get under a waterfall and mask their conversation in the sound of water. And so on, and so forth. Amazing imagination and beautiful editing.

I am not going to spoil the suspense by revealing what happened towards the end of the movie. I think the movie demonstrates the critical importance of the family unit learning from each other and supporting each other, and also the human ability to think through solutions to any kind of problems. I really loved the discovery of the solution by Simmonds which was recognized instantaneously by Emily (her mom). At least, they found a way to ward off the creatures, and with luck, incapacitate them when they come for the kill.

I could not stop seeing this movie – it was a short one at 90 minutes. It created a lot of expectations in me and I was totally involved in how the movie was unfolding, trying to guess what is going to happen. Such things happen only in horror or crime movies. And, “A Quiet Place” is indeed a wonderful horror movie which can be enjoyed by the whole family (not only dads like me!), and the key point is that it is not scary while causing muscle tension! You have to be prepared for the unexpected sequence.

I would strongly recommend this movie as a good alternate to usual Hollywood movies that do not engage each and every member of the audience. This movie does that in an effective manner. I would not be surprised if “A Quiet Place” is nominated for the Oscars. One of the actors could also receive a nomination. I wonder why we do not have such depth in the Bollywood and Kollywood movies from India. This is all about the imagination, the craftiness, the insight of the author(s) who could visualize a world without any protection against evil creatures. There is no protection at all – all the protectors are gone for ever. If you see the fear in the faces of our actors (except of the dad who is John), you will know how well they communicate what could be a real situation, how well they are getting prepared to face the inevitable and delay the consequences of making any kind of sound which appears to be impossible. How do you then deal with a new born child which will make noises? It happens in this movie!

Cheers

Vijay Srinivasan

8th September 2018

Android TV Box


After some serious investigation, I decided to cut the umbilical cord of entertainment which has defined households for several decades when it comes to TV time.

Yes, I decided to cut my cable TV subscription when the current contract ends. Of course, not the broadband fibre internet connection, that is absolutely needed.

What happened, you might ask. I am asking myself why I kept paying for cable all these years.

High speed broadband internet of the order of 300 MBPS and above became available only some 3 years ago in Singapore. I got my 1 GBPS connectivity around 2 years ago (though it is namesake only, the speed does not come anywhere close to the stated speed of 1 GBPS, though it is fast).

Without such high-speed internet, it would not have been anyway possible to eliminate the cable subscription.

I was surprised with the plethora of options available on streaming internet with an Android TV Box. Not only that, I could even view foreign news channels and sports TV which are not available even with a cable subscription. Thousands of viewing choices become available at your fingertip.

Of course, we do not have time to see even one movie completely at home. I used to just see the top news on CNN and some financial news on CNBC. Nothing much else. I became movie and TV serial friendly only upon the advent of Netflix. Though I would like to maximize my returns from that monthly subscription (which enables the family to see movies and serials on laptops and iPADs), personally I struggled with watching even one full season of a serial. So, time is short when you are looking at the familiar options, and that does not change a wee bit even with the Android TV Box.

However, I took it upon myself the project of cutting cable subscription costs which are quite steep in a tight market like Singapore wherein the competition is rather limited. It became a technical evaluation project, not surprisingly. I am not an Android guy, having been committed to the iPhone for the past over 5 years, so it took some time to figure out things.

It was, however, an exciting investigation. It took me just about couple of weeks to figure out what to do and how to execute, what to buy, etc., I studied a variety of options and eliminated most as local support in Singapore was found lacking. I did not want to just walk into Sim Lim Tower (the consumer electronics hub of Singapore), and pick up any kind of Android TV Box, though my research did produce options which were available there. I decided to go and buy online, which I ultimately did, saving time and effort.

There is a mind-boggling variety of options available to anyone who wants to cut the cable cord and move into streaming media technology. It took me a while to wade through fake claims and determine what are the really good options available.

Finally, I chose the following main features as necessary for the performance I was looking for –

Main Features:
● Combines durable 1.5GHz ARM Cortex – A53 CPU with Amlogic S912 chip
● Android 7.1 version, coupled with the rapid and stable configuration
● 4K / 3D video gives you high-quality video experience
● Dual-band WiFi gives you more smooth speed experience
● Bluetooth 4.1 connectivity. Easy pairing with most Bluetooth-enabled devices
● Support Miracast / DLNA / Airplay, share your video to your TV
● Voice remote control (you would love it)

Specs:
Core: Octa Core
Processor: Amlogic S912
CPU: ARM Cortex-A53
GPU: ARM Mali-T820MP3
Model: M8S PRO L
RAM Type: DDR3 (3 GB min.) ROM: 32 GB min
System: Android 7.1

There are many boxes available meeting the above specification. I bought the MECOOL TV BOX

Like most such boxes, this is also made in China. It has a good reputation and good product reviews. I would like to remind the readers that there are several such products available from several China manufacturers and you better do your own research. I bought the Mecool M8S PRO L 4K TV Box Amlogic S912 Bluetooth 4.1 + HS – VOICE REMOTE CONTROL ( 3GB RAM + 32GB ROM ) model which you can find in Sim Lim Tower or online. This product has a local supplier in Singapore who offers one year warranty which is not usual for these kinds of products.

I had my usual enthusiasm of getting something new after I placed the order online. The box arrived in 3 days and I was surprised it was so small. It is very small, and I could not believe it could pack so much power, yet it is a real high powered cable cord cutter.

I installed the box and ran it for a couple of days, but then I grew tired of the look and feel on my TV screen and wanted to go in for a new build. Again this is a thrilling journey, as you have to erase all the pre-installed content on the box, and take the risk of the box not working after your experimentation.

But it worked for me – I uninstalled all that was there and re-installed it in the way I liked with a KODI build that I preferred. KODI is the entertainment dashboard for the Android TV Box, and there are many builds available on top of KODI to stream media content to your TV box. It took me a couple of days to understand what the geeks around the world are doing, and then I decided to do it my way with NO LIMITS MAGIC BUILD which is one of many types of builds available.

Finally, the TV Box is producing the results I expected, but I have more work to do. It is exciting and it is absorbing – more than the actual media content which has started streaming.

Kill your cable connection and embark on a new journey. Do not download media just stream it to stay within legal limits.

Cheers, and Have a good week ahead,

Vijay Srinivasan

02 September 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blockers


Yet another movie that I elected to see on a flight.

I take quite a while to choose a movie to see, especially when there are hundreds available. This time around, I wanted to see a funny comedy kind of movie, and “Blockers” fit the bill.

I do not know or understand how Indian parents in the U.S. deal with the phenomenon of “prom night” when seniors graduate from their school, and go partying all night, often drinking alcohol, smoking drugs, and having sex with their pre-chosen mates. There is nothing like a “prom night” in India or Singapore, I have never heard of one.

“Blockers” is all about three parents who know each other from their daughters’ kindergarten to their senior high school graduation, and who wish to stop their respective daughters from having sex on their prom night. It is funny, it is comical, it is witty – whatever you want to call, but it is also a learning experience for both parents and daughters as they discover key aspects of life in the process.

The parents obviously get stressed out totally trying to figure out what their daughters are up to, and once they discover their plans, swing into action and that leads them into a wild goose ride all over town, with funny consequences. The movie is full of life – the American way of life – and revealing to a non-American how life could get thrilling in America!

I am not sure we need prom nights in our part of the world, wherein the entire objective seems to be focused on losing one’s virginity as a prelude to starting off adulthood, or college careers. It is no secret that most schools have widespread alcohol and drug use in the U.S. (and in most other countries). But “prom night” is designed to be a social coming of age occasion for boys and girls, with high-speed networking, drinking and drug use in a ball room setting with lots of dancing to invigorating music. While I am not going to judge morals here, the need for the focus on sex can be debated, and in that sense, I empathize with the plight of the three parents who come through as very close to their daughters, caring for them every minute, to the extent that they start annoying them.

Indian parents can sync with such feelings for sure (and most Asian parents do). It is an emotional grasp of feelings which are hard to describe – love, affection, the fear of letting go, the lack of recognition that the kids are no longer kids – they have almost become adults and can make their own decisions, et al. It is very challenging when that happens to us, and I enjoyed every moment of the movie when the parents have to deal with their own plight. The feeling of insecurity dawns on the parents – that they are no longer in control of the lives of their own daughters, and that upsets them seriously.

In the U.S., apparently it is not unusual to have sex at the age of 17 or 18 between consenting teens – happens all the time, and gets intensified as one gets into college. It is probably used as a “get to know” the guy or the girl before engaging in a lifelong relationship. I understand it is getting to be prevalent at least by early twenties in India, where the parents do not condone such behaviour. Again, I have no personal views on such “acts” of convenience while preparing for life. It is not an issue of moral judgement, it is a personal choice which every teen on the verge of adulthood needs to reckon with – at least in the U.S. social life context.

The eventual adjustments that the daughters in “Blockers” movie demonstrate touch your heart. They all come back to their respective parents, reconcile with them, and then leave for their respective universities of choice. Parents will remain worried, for sure. That is the nature of parents, nothing much can be done to reduce their anxiety when the kids go far away from them. However, they find solace in the fact that their daughters can make intelligent decisions for themselves, and work through the vagaries of life, and navigate their future, while staying connected amongst themselves and with their parents.

I liked the way the movie concluded. It was intimate, it was personal, it was touching. Parents are parents, and their position cannot be compromised. They will care for their kids, come what may. Mother remains a beacon of comfort and solace for her kids. Father remains a beacon of strength, though one of the strong fathers in the movie breaks down often!

“Blockers” is a good movie that one will enjoy just for the funny language and rapid action scenes which constantly keep shifting from one scene to the next. It is entertaining. It is revealing – about the trust between daughters and parents. It is more revealing about parents than anyone else.

Enjoy “Blockers”.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

14th July 2018

 

The Commuter


This is a full action-packed thriller movie enacted almost completely on a train in New York city which is headed to a faraway suburb. All the action happens on the train, and Liam Neeson is at his best trying to figure out the mystery, a role for which he is one of the best actors available. He has a heavy set, thinking face and you do not expect a fast movement from him. But he delivers some knock-out punches on the train and is also attacked vigorously by much younger men.

For an ordinary salesman on his regular commute home, and that too for a guy who has just lost his job with a mortgage to pay and family to cater to, it is all too much. One can witness the turmoil in his face when some lady offers him USD 25,000 for a seemingly innocuous job on the train. But his acceptance of that money puts him (and a number of his fellow passengers) at great peril; it also leads to the murder of a few folks on the train.

We have a saying – one bad thing leads to the next one, the same leg gets hit twice, etc., That’s what happens to our hero on the train after his sordid office experience that particular day when he got fired from his job, replaced by a woman with not much experience but at a far lower salary. His long experience did not count! And then comes the long ordeal on the train for which he was not at all prepared – no one can be, of course. A series of events on the train leads him to nowhere, and he is being challenged by the mysterious lady on the train who gave him the money to find someone on the train.

I was thinking – why couldn’t she find that person if she wanted to eliminate that person so badly? Why would she use Liam Neeson and in the process, also eliminate perfectly normal commuters? But it is the way the movie is scripted and directed – not much of a logic in the way it has been constructed.

This is not a movie that I would seek out and go see in a theatre. I saw the movie on my recent flight, selected it because it appeared to be an exciting thriller. However, I need to say that “The Commuter” is not a great movie with a great plot and direction. I saw it primarily for Liam Neeson’s acting, but he can’t do much if the plot is weak or has no logic, right?

While there is not much of a rationale in the manner in which the movie plays out, I liked the way Liam Neeson handles the pressure of his role – what if this were a true story which it very well could be? Then we would need a Liam Neeson who at the purported age of 60 in the movie (he is actually 65 now) could deal with enormous pressure without breaking, and execute his mental plan with agility though many a time he appears rather confused with the way things are turning out. There is not one dull moment in the flow of the movie directed by the famous Spanish Director Jaume Collet-Serra. I saw the movie non-stop, not even looking around the plane – all the time wondering what is going to happen. Where is this mysterious person who has some prohibited data so desired by his/her potential killers, that they would go to any extent to kill him/her even with all the collateral damage and a huge train accident. Why do they want him/her killed, and why can’t they find him/her by themselves if that person is on this specific train, etc.,

The movie shows every inch of a typical New York commuter train, and it is hard to miss anything as the director and the cameraman are indeed spending all their time in the train! They even show the undercarriage of the train as Liam Neeson had to hide, hanging down on the undercarriage almost touching the ground. There are unbelievable scenes like separating the carriage in which several people are held together from the racing train which has no driver as he has been eliminated. Liam Neeson proves that he was a cop before becoming an insurance salesman.

The worst surprise happens when Neeson’s own past police colleague turns out to be the perpetrator of the vicious crime on the train, but that is for you to see, right?

Have a wonderful weekend folks,

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

7th July 2018

 

Set it up


This is a new Hollywood movie which was just released in June 2018. I was surprised I was able to see it on my Netflix account so soon, and discovered later that the movie was indeed released by Netflix itself. So, Netflix is in the movie business by itself, and could eventually give a run for the major brick-and-mortar movie studios which have dominated the movie business for so many decades. No wonder Netflix stock is skyrocketing – going up all the time.

As usual, I am not writing much about the movie itself or its actors themselves. My observations on this nice movie are manifold from a generic observer point of view. Don’t get me wrong, this is an enjoyable movie for a nice evening with your beau, sipping tea (sorry, no alcohol), and there are many Hollywood movies of this variety which is categorized as romantic comedy.

My first observation is about the new millennial work culture at the cost of building personal relationships, indulging in hobbies, or even doing what one wishes to do in their spare time – simply because there is just no spare time available in this culture which is all about getting ahead in career in the quickest time possible by doing things which pleases the boss all the time – basically at her or his beck and call, doing things which one would not do in ordinary course of life. This is just plain stupid – one has to build his or her own life in the way he or she likes it, and not be commandeered every minute by some reckless and heartless boss. The millennials  would lose their mind and heart and start following their bosses in their life as well, which would be a disaster.

The second observation is about the bosses themselves, who are expected to be professionals and not some jerks throwing things around their office, and insulting their workforce, especially their executive assistants. Apart from matters of the heart and sensitivity towards other human beings, the conclusion is that the bosses in this movie exhibit characteristics which are completely unacceptable in today’s modern digital economy. Bosses nowadays are becoming “facilitators” rather than aggressive commanders of their workforce army, which itself is increasingly becoming agile. So, how can a modern day boss in a New York office be portrayed as someone so reckless? The movie has a boss who insists that her assistant should go and get her dinner irrespective of the late hours – why should the assistant do what a delivery agency should be doing? Why should the other assistant (for the male boss) bring coffee for him every day? Or, juice!!!

The third observation is the mistaken (in my opinion) demonstration of how easy a typical young American falls in love right after the first date and then they immediately progress to the next stage. While it may be true in a sense (I don’t know myself what I am saying here!!!), I believe that people are a little more measured than shown in most movies in rushing towards the inevitable act. While school romances are common, after a few years people do become sober, and do not really trust their first instincts. They would examine more, check out the background of each other, see whether there are common interests (though the two bosses do not demonstrate any of these characteristics and still fall in love), and if they really want to enter into a casual relationship (the movie does show the scene in the assistant’s home when both are eating pizza and then the girl just goes away though the guy is inching towards a potential kiss – he doesn’t show his inclination though). I think this was one of the best scenes when two peoples’ collusion does not descend into a physical relationship though the situation and environment favours one. I liked the way the girl assistant moves on with her thoughts after the pizza dinner – and she also looks at the guy somewhat adoringly.

Fourth observation – this movie is all about “setting up” two people who would not have normally met, and also impacting their hook ups by making them say or do something which accentuates their desire for each other. This is called “cyrano” after the 19th Century play called “Cyrano de Bergerac”. It was the first time that I came across this special word which connotes setting up two people to do something, directed by somebody else who knows them both.

So, all in all, those are my generic observations. The movie itself is a good time-passer with pleasant happenings, zero violence, quick comedy situations, fast paced actions on an entirely social front, good direction, and good story line. My wife and I liked it, but we were not over-awed by the movie. I was surprised to see its good reception, however.

Enjoy your weekend with some good movie folks,

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

30th June 2018

 

Jurassic Park in the Gold Class


Someone close to me gifted two “Gold Class” tickets which cost SGD 39 apiece (around USD 29), which is a big price to pay for seeing a movie – for comparison purpose, the standard movie ticket in Singapore costs SGD 13 or USD 9, so we are talking about a three-fold increase in price. I was wondering what to do with the tickets, as I am not an avid cinema theatre goer – if I go to cinema twice a year, that would be considered special! Finally, I thought it would be better to go and see what is this gold class all about for myself, and I asked my wife to join me. There were only four movies available in the gold class category, and three of them were useless, so I was forced to select “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” which I would not usually select, as I think the whole movie series is escapist and does not reflect reality. Except to see the dinosaurs of a foregone era in action via animation – we all know it is not real, and dinosaur eggs do not exist.

However, we finally landed in the gold class lounge, and were not surprised to see the special lounge facilities with plush sofas, magazines to browse through, personal butler service, and a variety of food to order from. There were not many viewers in the gold class at 10 AM on a Saturday morning, though slowly the theatre filled up to some 70% capacity. We enjoyed the luxury of the place of course, and ordered some coffee and snacks to be served 30 minutes after the movie started. I have never witnessed such facilities in a cinema theatre, though I have heard of the same. I have always thought “what a waste of money”. I could not just throw away the two tickets however.

We walked into the theatre and found our seats – very plush and as good as a first class airline seat, almost fully reclinable with fully stretchable horizontal leg/foot cushions. They even provided a blanket – well I don’t use blankets even in an airconditioned bedroom, and I felt it odd that people were covering themselves with blankets – may be several of them were planning to doze off in the comfort of the luxurious seats!

Our coffee and food arrived (there was a call button that we could press to get the butler to come and attend to our needs) after a reminder, and it was not bad, indicating that the theatre considers us as our regular patrons. There were several folks who ordered wine and beer (at 10:30 AM!), and enjoying the tipple. Almost everyone had ordered food.

Between us and the next seats, there was considerable distance, so people could chat without disturbing others. It was indeed a very good experience for both of us who have not seen anything like it yet, except the regular cinemas which are already pretty good with good seating in Singapore. The gold class signifies something more important in a rich society – that people aspire for exclusivity, and are willing to pay for it. But, if you ask me if I would go again to the gold class, my answer will of course be a categorical “no”, as I do not see value in it apart from the luxury quotient.

Hey, what about the movie itself?

Well, my one single sentence about the Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom movie is that the various dinosaurs, and especially the very intelligent raptor, have acted better than the human actors – they are a class apart, and hi-tech animation has delivered phenomenal results. There are many thrills, twists and turns in the movie, but these are to be expected. But the movie descends into what I would call utter nonsense when the bad guys capture these majestic animals, bring them to California, and try to auction them to super villains from around the world. Come on!

In the normal course of events, this movie would be missed out completely. But kids might like the fantastic animation and dinosaurs running around, trying to communicate with each other and with our hero in the movie. Adults would find this sequel some utter nonsense with no sense or direction. Notwithstanding the animation, the movie lacks a substantive story line which is somewhat believable, so that the path can suitably be laid out for the next one due in 2021. Unfortunately, it is not the case with this movie.

So, the only benefit of seeing a useless movie is the environment in which we saw it – and that is the beautiful gold class. While I am not suggesting you should go for this luxurious experience, if and when you choose to do so please ensure that the movie choice is absolutely right and melds with the environment in a way which makes the overall experience that much more memorable.

When we walked out of the gold class, we were wondering what happened to that experience.

Cheers, and have a good week ahead,

Vijay Srinivasan

24th June 2018

 

La Femme Nikita


It appears that I have fallen in love with French movies and their mysterious directors.

Just saw this 1990 movie by the famous French director, Luc Besson. His style is unlike that of the usual movie directors – he has a thriller concept and builds it around a main character in a rather fast-paced manner, and the movie sequences that fall out of his camera seem to be stylish with a nice merger into the overall concept. There are many directors who are famous for their directorial output and class of movies. But if you wish to witness style in action, go for Luc Besson, who has been called the Steven Spielberg of French cinema.

La Femme Nikita is about a fierce drug-addicted girl (very young) who was caught in a drugstore robbery and assault, after having shot at a policeman. She is uncontrollable and gets angry very fast, and is rather violent even in prison. The government decides that they would fake her death and recruit her to be a secret assassin for a super-secret government agency. She is trained rigorously and then sent out into the society. She has no feelings of a normal woman. The whole story is about her discovering her feelings of being a woman and falling in love with a commoner. At the same time, the government does not let her forget her past and her commitment to be an assassin. As you can see, the conflict which then arises is too much to handle.

The destruction of the soul of a young girl by drug addiction and violence is followed by a similar destruction of her soul by the secret agency which makes her commit crimes and assassinations. She cannot escape from her government handlers, and have to do their bidding via phone calls received at odd times. All these activities create suspicion in the mind of her new lover, who becomes rather worried for her safety. The nice thing is that this guy continues to lover her instead of chucking her out of his apartment. She could have secured a nice life with him – someone she dearly loves – but fate would have some other roadmap for her.

I felt bad that she had to go away from her new found love because she wanted to be away from it all – all the violence and destruction. She wants to have a normal life, having discovered her potential as a young woman of substance. Unfortunately, her secret agency handler is not in a position to let her go of her own accord. More assignments are coming her way because she was really talented – as a killer.

La Femme Nikita is a psychological thriller and it is not beyond the realm of reality. Anne Parillaud has delivered a great performance as Nikita (she is actually the wife of Luc Besson at that time), with emotions clogging her face when she had to obey the agency’s orders. Tcheky Karyo as Nikita’s government handler is amazing – he rarely shows any emotions in his stoic countenance, and carries out his task without a trace of smile or sorrow. Except in the last scene! Jean Hugues-Anglade as the super market billing counter guy comes in a simple role but establishes his credentials by his love and affection for Nikita, and for letting her go towards the end as she will not be safe in Paris. Amazing cast of actors chosen by Luc Besson. I will be remiss if I do not mention Jeanne Moreau who as an instructor at the secret agency transforms Nikita into a beautiful woman.

The psychological transformation of Nikita is captured wonderfully via Luc Besson’s skillful direction and editing. Her vulnerability is portrayed in an elegant manner despite her violent tendencies which she exhibits in ample measure towards her training instructors at the secret agency’s school. Anne Parillaud is simply an amazing actress who transforms herself into the character of Nikita in a seamless manner and delivers an outstanding performance as a drug addict, a violent killer, a lover, a woman of substance, and a romantic whose love life goes awry at the end.

I bet you would like to see this 28 years old movie if you have not seen it. Enjoy it and let me know if you like it.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

10th June 2018

 

“Raazi” Movie Review


In Singapore movie theatres, they show English sub-titles for Hindi movies. This has been a motivator for me to go to theatre sometimes, as it is really hard to get English sub-titles except for Netflix movies. For other language movies, the sub-titles are generally in Mandarin, not useful for me. I am yet to learn Mandarin despite a quarter century of exposure and experience operating in largely Chinese markets. In the meanwhile, everyone is already speaking in English in all these markets!

My wife mentioned to me that the “Raazi” movie has been received rather well by movie audiences and it would be interesting to see a Pakistan-oriented movie in a spy thriller setting. I thought it is not a bad idea to sacrifice one late evening for such a thriller and so we went yesterday for what indeed turned out to be an excellent movie with some very good acting. I do not go for the usual Bollywood and Kollywood movies as mostly their focus is on escapism and violence combined with some salacious romance. I can count the number of movies that I have seen in a theatre over the past decade.

I liked “Raazi” which in Hindi means “Agree”. While I do not understand its literary impact, I believe this word implies the acceptance of the “spy” actress in the movie, called Sehmat, of the wish of her father – to go into Pakistan as a spy for India. Alia Bhatt has delivered a stunning performance as a young college-going girl who transitions herself successfully into a spy, while performing the chores of married life in a Pakistani army family. The director has done a great job of pulling together a spy thriller without showing bombs going up everywhere, except in the last 10 minutes of the movie.

This movie is all about human emotions and patriotism, rather than bombing each other. The most outstanding performances in this movie are by Jaideep Ahlawat who acts as the Intelligence Bureau head who uses Alia Bhatt (I am using actual names) as a spy. Notwithstanding his initial doubts, he demonstrates a quiet confidence on the capabilities of his newest lady spy, and his trust was not misplaced. Even he is astounded by her effectiveness as a spy in an alien setting, and that too as the wife of an army officer. While the army family is all about attacking India, Alia Bhatt is all about her patriotism for India and the task handed over to her by her dad. She stays true to her objective, despite the love she develops for her new husband, Vicky Kaushal, who delivers a subtle and conscientious performance in a difficult role in which he had to balance his love for his new charming wife and for Pakistan.

The movie revolves around these key characters who are very well directed by Meghna Gulzar. I liked some of the thrilling situations in which Alia Bhatt finds herself in, mostly caused by her actions as a spy who executes her training in the field amazingly well with dedication and quiet efficiency. There are close calls, of course, like when an army file was missing and people come looking for it while Alia Bhatt was copying information from it and sending to the Intelligence Bureau in India.

After every major action that Alia executes, like when she almost kills the household head servant, she comes back home and explodes her emotions in the bathroom. This was an outstanding performance by Alia Bhatt, who did not expect that she would be a killer one day, and that too so soon. She is not able to stomach the emotions and needs help – probably from her parents, but they are not in close proximity to her – they are in India and she is in Pakistan. Alia also murders her own brother-in-law who is another army officer who starts to develop some suspicion on her. All these critical actions are unavoidable in her spy role, as otherwise she would have been exposed. The emotional outburst is a natural outcome in her role as a young and inexperienced spy, and she demonstrates it well. Another instance worth watching is when she really discovers the gold mine – the plan of Pakistani Army/Navy to attack the Indian Aircraft Carrier, INS Vikrant. She is overcome emotionally, almost paralyzed, but rushes to send this hugely important information to her Indian intelligence handlers.

There are lapses in the movie – several of them, but one noticeable issue is how come a Pakistani army officer comes into India so easily and gets married and goes back? How is it possible for Alia to escape so easily when the entire Pakistani Army and Pakistani Intelligence are looking for her?

Nevertheless, this movie is a successful one due to the power of its direction and the choice of its cast. All actors have performed well together and there is a subtle tension which runs in the background which has been knit rather well.

I would suggest that you see the movie – it is different from the usual song and dance movies of Bollywood, absorbing, thoughtful, well acted and well directed. I am giving it a 4 Star rating (I rarely give 4.5 and never a 5).

Have a wonderful weekend, folks.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

2nd June 2018

Lost in Translation and Lifelong Monogamy


It is hard to understand the 2003 movie “Lost in Translation” directed by Sofia Coppola which won the Academy Award for the Best Original Screenplay, and many other awards. Award-winning movies, in general, are difficult to understand as they convey a deeper meaning of ordinary life that cannot be easily grasped by one and all. Such movies can also be generally interpreted in different ways and there is usually some mystery around them.

“Lost in Translation” has no structured presentation as a movie story. It is about two souls – one old and the other very young – who are lost in themselves, but in a foreign land – in this case, Tokyo. The title is also a pun on the Japanese language which none of the main characters in the movie understand (all being Americans). I felt that the movie had nothing going on for quite a while, and suggested to my wife that we should see something else on Netflix. She also felt the same way for quite some time. However, we finally persuaded each other that we must see such a well-awarded movie to its end and see what really happens towards its end. And, what did we see at the end – nothing, yes, simply nothing. There is no conclusion, and not surprisingly, there is no beginning and no middle as well!

Deciphering the movie’s message depends on your understanding of the American culture, way of living, and its psyche about relationships. It happens to be vastly different from Asian way of living. Lifelong monogamy has much less significance in America than it is in the East. We can see the challenges that Bob Harris (Bill Murray) has in his life with his wife of 25 years who is far away in the U.S. He struggles with his forgetfulness (about key dates in his daughter’s life), his wife’s curve balls (like when she says that he can stay back in Japan if he likes Japanese food so much), the difficult long-distance conversations he has with his wife, his comments about children, etc., In our lives, all such things are considered normal – we have issues with our spouses and our children, who doesn’t, but yet we proceed living our lives in the best way we can. Not that there absolutely no distractions or temptations, but we reconcile with our choices we made so assiduously in our lives, and realize that any deviations could cause untold hardships to our families. It must be the same way for Americans, but it sometimes appears so easy for them to deviate from a straight line of a solid family orientation.

On the other hand, Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson), comes through as a vulnerable, unhappy married housewife, who has not figured out what to do with her own life. She is unsure of herself, and does not know what to do next. She wanders around Tokyo in an almost aimless manner. Her husband is a celebrity photographer, who is always busy, and I wonder why he brought her along to Tokyo if he is always going to be away on assignments. She is left all alone in her hotel room, but it does not jell when the director shows that she has a number of friends in Tokyo – that comes through as unbelievable. Scarlett Johansson delivers a good performance in her role, but she pales in comparison to Bill Murray who delivers an outstanding, seasoned performance as a lonely rich Hollywood actor who has lost it all, though he has money and family. When he gazes through the night sitting in the hotel bar, it is so very communicative – he has a forlorn face, completely lost and lonely, and really sad and totally tired. He ignores the other bar drinkers and does not connect with anyone else easily. He is not connecting with his apparent fame and recognition anywhere in the world.

So the movie is about these two lonely people essentially who hook up in the hotel bar and develop what appears to be a platonic relationship which allows them to enjoy each others’ company while exploring the nightlife of Tokyo. It is indeed cool that two people who are separated so widely by age can reach a silent understanding of each other and then go on to eventually share their thoughts in an intimate fashion. It is rarely the case when anyone will easily open up their most personal views to a total stranger. But it happens in an almost effortless manner between Charlotte and Bob, and several times I thought that Charlotte desires a physical relationship from her longing look at Bob.

After seeing the movie, and thinking for a while, I am getting a bit more clarity on the director’s intentions and messaging. This is a movie for Americans as it almost perfectly reflects the issues and challenges that they face in their married lives (recall both Bob and Charlotte are married folks but yet totally lost and lonely, even with reference to their respective partners). Their ability to resolve those issues and challenges is always almost messed up due to the distractions that life throws at them – in this case in a remote country with a unique language, wherein one’s perceived loneliness can only increase!

Interesting though complex movie, but too slow moving for my taste. Both Charlotte and Bob do not attempt to resolve their problems by talking their issues out with their partners, and I wonder why. May be then there is no story for the movie!

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

19th May 2018